Stormwater and water quality connect to many topics in the school curriculum: conservation, the water cycle, engineering, economics, chemistry, biology, public policy, and more. Teachers across the country have found ways to make stormwater lessons fun, interactive, and educational at the same time. Learning about water quality is an ideal lesson for students because it connects them to the outdoors, helps them see the “bigger picture” beyond their house, community, and even state, and creates lifelong environmental stewards. Students may take what they’ve learned back to their families and initiate stormwater BMPs at home, expanding the reach of your lesson beyond the classroom.
As you design your curriculum, consider incorporating a lesson on stormwater, or even installing a BMP on school property that can function as an “outdoor classroom.” Green infrastructure techniques such as rain gardens, rain barrels, permeable pavement, and tree plantings not only manage stormwater where it falls– they can clean the air, beautify school grounds, and even reduce your school building’s energy costs. Students will be able to see the BMP evolve and change over time, making it a valuable teaching resource for years to come. Additionally, studies show that schools surrounded by trees and other greenery provide health benefits, reduce stress in students, and make it easier to concentrate. Here are just a few ways you can use stormwater BMPs in your classes– for a creative teacher, the possibilities are endless!
- Have students perform water monitoring tests to determine pH, nutrient concentrations, and other parameters of stormwater
- Bring students outside to identify and learn about native plants in the BMP
- Conduct wildlife observations and species counts of animals living and feeding in the BMP
- Use BMP design and function as a tool in engineering and landscaping classes
- Bring English and creative writing classes outdoors to write reflections, poetry, and stories inspired by nature
- Have art students paint rain barrels to use on school property, or to sell at a school fundraiser
Additionally, any green infrastructure on school grounds can serve as a model project for the wider community. Schools are often at the heart of communities, and parents, relatives, elected officials, and others will visit campus for sports games, concerts, graduations, and other events. Adding educational signage to your BMPs will help engage the public whenever they visit your school.
Blair County Spotlight
Pathways to Green Schools, developed by the PA Department of Education, provides advice, resources, and case studies on schools across PA that have “gone green.”
Green Schools–Blue Waters, run by the Center for Schools and Communities, aims to achieve statewide collaboration among environmental education partners to achieve Chesapeake Bay goals.
The PA Department of Environmental Protection’s Environmental Education Page contains information on environmental education workshops, initiatives, and grants available to schools.
The PA Association of Environmental Educators is a network of teachers that publishes a quarterly journal, hosts an annual conference to share environmental educators, and shares lessons plans, ideas and advice.
Stormwater Sentries is a Facebook game that teaches students about stormwater in the style of popular games like “Farmville.” Students control their own neighborhood in the game and reduce stormwater pollution by planting buffers, installing rain barrels and permeable paves, picking up trash, and more. The game was developed through a partnership between the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, George Mason High School, and City of Falls Church (both in VA).